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Family caretakers optimistic federal rule changes will free them from unwanted union representation

The Trump administration’s reversal of an Obama-era rule will end SEIU practice of skimming union dues off the top of Personal Care Attendants’ Medicaid payments

(St. Paul, MN) – Minnesota Personal Care Attendants (PCAs) celebrated today’s announcement that the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has overturned an Obama-era rule allowing Medicaid payments to be diverted to government unions, saying the rule violates the Social Security Act. The rule change means family members and friends who stay home to care for loved ones will keep all of the Medicaid payments intended for them, rather than paying hundreds of dollars to the SEIU.

Currently, the state of Minnesota takes money out of Medicaid support checks meant to improve the quality of life of America’s sick, elderly and disabled, and gives it to the SEIU. This became legal after Governor Mark Dayton and the majority-DFL legislature passed a law in 2013 declaring PCAs “public employees,” despite the fact that they are often caring for family members, and do not receive any other benefits of public employment such as a pension or health care.

The SEIU takes 3% of PCAs’ gross wages up to $948. According estimates based on federal filings, the SEIU in Minnesota skimmed $4.7 million from PCAs’ Medicaid payments in 2016. That is higher than the average dues that a K-12 school teacher pays to Education Minnesota.

“What this means is that, while the collective bargaining units remain certified for now, the unions will have to collect their own dues. That protects the program dollars from abuse and forces the unions to demonstrate value to their remaining members.” said Kim Crockett, Vice President and General Counsel at Center of the American Experiment, a Minnesota-based non-partisan educational organization.

Kris Greene, the Lakeville mother of a disabled daughter and PCA, is thrilled but cautious. “My home is not a union workplace. The Medicaid program worked better before the SEIU horned its way into our lives. We are grateful for this rule change but the remaining problem is that the SEIU still speaks for me and all Choice PCAs at the Capitol. But they never ask me what I want.” Greene is a leader of MNPCA.org, a coalition of PCAs trying to decertify the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and draw attention to the diversion of Medicaid funds. She is also lead plaintiff in litigation challenging the Medicaid unionization scheme.

“No parent should be coerced into paying a union just to care for their own disabled child,” said Catherine Hunter, a PCA from Burnsville with several disabled children. “Instead of steady pay raises across the board, the SEIU has lobbied for paid time off (PTO) and training stipends that are hard to navigate and of little use to most PCAs, especially when we care for a family member. The SEIU has made it harder for the disabled to get the coverage they need. This rule change will help focus PCAs on whether the SEIU has helped or harmed the program.”

Center of the American Experiment had previously submitted a public comment in support of the rule change. The Center’s public comment noted, “Despite the clear prohibition in Section 32, Minnesota is diverting Medicaid monies from their intended purpose—paying for care for the disabled—to subsidize political activities conducted by government unions, as well as “training” used for union recruitment and indoctrination; and while assignments of union dues from payments to home health care providers have been both voluntary and involuntary in Minnesota, the voluntariness of an assignment is irrelevant under Section 32, which prohibits even voluntary assignments, except to government agencies or by court order.”

In 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled (Harris v Quinn) that PCAs paid under Medicaid were not actually public employees, and so could not be forced to pay union fees. In 2018, the Court extended that ruling to all public employees in Janus v AFSCME.

Kim Crockett continued, “The SEIU still speaks for Choice PCAs all over Minnesota. This rule change gives PCAs who do not want the SEIU to speak for them hope that the SEIU will be decertified someday soon and relieve PCAs and their families of this meddlesome union.”

Doug Seaton, who represents MNPCA.org, commented, “The rule change makes it more likely that the SEIU can be decertified, or even that the union will walk away from PCA representation because the SEIU is in this for the money and very few PCAs will pay them directly.” Doug Seaton is a labor attorney and president of the Upper Midwest Law Center.

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